How To Train Your Dragon has officially become one of my favorite movie trilogies ever… and perhaps even rival Toy Story as my fave animated trilogies. When the first movie first came out, it kind of took me by surprise just how much I adore it. In fact, it’s one of those rare times that I give a full 5 out of 5 score to a film. I loved the second movie too, but it wasn’t as good as the first but still earned a stellar 4.5 out of 5. So naturally, I was excited to see the final conclusion of Hiccup and Toothless journey in their land called Berk.
This time, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now a young man and since the death of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler in perhaps his best role ever), he’s now the chief of his land. Since the event of the last movie, Berk has become a dragon utopia where dragons of all sizes live in harmony with the Vikings community. The movie opens with an action sequence where Hiccup & his team of goons (except for the extremely capable Astrid) are in a rescue mission to release captured dragons from warlords. As they bring some of those creatures home, it’s clear that Berk has became way too chaotic for the two species to co-exist as the dragons’ and humans’ population continue to grow.
I like that Stoick hasn’t disappeared in the movie as he shows up in Hiccup’s flashbacks/memory flash. The late Berk chief has always been obsessed with the Hidden World, what Berk described as a safe haven for dragons, and now it’s become Hiccup’s mission to find that place. Meanwhile, Hiccup’s friendship with Toothless face the biggest test of all as the Night Fury became enamored by a beautiful stranger, a white-skinned dragon they end up calling The Light Fury.
As you might’ve seen in the trailers and various promos, the ‘dragons in love’ have been featured heavily. I’ve always been fond of Toothless, it’s simply an adorable creature with its cat-like eyes and movement. Light Fury is just as mesmerizing, I’d even call alluring in the way it bewitched Toothless. The moment Hiccup actually ‘coached’ his besotted friend and Toothless making an absolute fool of itself trying to impress its new lady friend is pretty hilarious.
One of the movie’s genuine emotional moments is when Hiccup realize he just might lose Toothless forever… and yet the good guy that he is, he learns to accept it. He even goes so far as rebuilding Toothless’ automatic tail so it could fly higher to be with Light Fury. But an enemy is never far behind… we’re introduced to a new villain, the dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly who apparently has killed every living Night Furies except for Toothless. Voiced by F. Murray Abraham (in a kind of Transylvanian accent??), I kept thinking the way the character’s drawn reminds me of Terrence Stamp.
Unlike the first movie where the pacing is smooth and there’s a nice flow in how everything unfolds, this one feels a bit haphazard and chaotic at times. There are a lot going on—we’ve got the entire Berk community moving to a new place, Toothless & Light Fury romantic interlude, Grimmel’s fiery attacks, Vikings vs Warlords battle, etc. that it was dragging at times. Furthermore, Grimmel isn’t that memorable a villain and some of the humors from Hiccup’s eccentric group of friends also feel a bit repetitive.
Thankfully there are still a lot to love, and in the end, the relationship between Hiccup & Toothless is the one that tugs your heartstrings. In fact, the last 20 minutes is where the movie soars the highest and I’m glad I packed tissues!
Character-wise, I think Hiccup is perhaps one of the most well-written animated characters (heck even movie characters in general). It’s a well-rounded coming-of-age story and Hiccup is a character whose whose journey is worth following. His relationship with his dad Stoick is revisited in a heartwarming way that make up for the lack of mother/son relationship with his mother (Cate Blanchett). I also appreciate writer/director Dean DeBlois in that he writes a formidable female character Astrid (America Ferrera) beyond just a love interest, but a wise and empathetic counsel to the often-overwhelmed Hiccup. One of the blond twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) is quite the comic relief, especially in her scenes with Grimmel.
Visually, the film once again looks positively glorious! I actually regret not seeing the original on the big screen, but I did see the second one in the cinema and it’s a must just for the flying sequences alone. The Hidden World itself is quite a spectacle, and seeing Toothless become more than the cute & loyal dragon pet but a leader for his species is pretty epic. It’s an intriguing parallel to Hiccup’s journey from boy to man. John Powell’s majestic score is one of my favorite movie music of all time (as I’ve highlighted here) I still absolutely love it here, it’s rousing and uplifting in the action scenes and perfectly touching in the quiet, dramatic moments.
I highly recommend this one, but I think it’d be more enjoyable if you’ve seen at least the first movie. Some people may think animation is mostly for kids, but this trilogy offers plenty for adults. The way it deals with mature themes, such as learning to let go, is emotionally resonant without giving up its playful nature. What a bittersweet goodbye to such wonderful characters we first saw nearly a decade ago. It’s definitely one of the most fun and most satisfying animated fantasy adventure with a stirring message of friendship, family and loyalty.
So what do you think of How To Train Your Dragon 3? Do you like this more or less than the original?